Bruce Wood's Royal Blood was published by Penmore Press in March 2019.

Information about Bruce Woods:

Bruce Woods is a professional writer/editor with more than 30 years in magazine publishing, having worked as editor of Mother Earth News and Alaska Magazine, among others, and has published both nonfiction and poetry books. Prairie Schooner magazine featured his work in its “Writing from Alaska” issue. His Birdhouse Book, brought out by Sterling/Lark, is still in print and has sold more than 100,000 copies.

After leaving the editor’s position at Alaska Magazine in late 1998, Woods began a second career in External Affairs for the Alaska Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Eventually serving as the de facto writer/editor for the agency’s largest region, as well as providing information and an initial contact point for state, national, and international media on issues affecting Alaska’s often controversial wildlife and land management issues, Woods retired in the spring of 2013 in order to focus on fiction writing. His Hearts of Darkness trilogy, the first volume of which, Royal Blood, was published by Penmore Press in 2019 is the first major publication resulting from that effort.

In addition to the Birdhouse Book referenced above, Woods has published three nonfiction volumes and several books of poetry with small presses. During his magazine editing career he also served as editor/contributor to numerous nonfiction volumes. Several of his essays have been anthologized, as well.

Woods currently lives in Anchorage, Alaska with his wife Mary and his two cats, Lucy Fur and Boswell. Gardening and bicycling (the latter usually upon a single-speed road bike named “Yellow Snow” that he built from an old track frame bought online) are chief among his many interests outside of reading and writing. He has two children, Ethan who studied music composition at Bennington College and now resides in Brooklyn N.Y., and his daughter Alice graduated from Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Information about Royal Blood:

Historical and fictional characters come together and change the future of Africa forever. Renowned actress Lady Ellen Terry, detective Sherlock Holmes, financier Cecil Rhodes, hunter/naturalist Frederick Courtney Selous, King Lobengula, and a mysterious, undead adventuress named Paulette Monot become chess pieces in the Great Game, which takes the form of Africa's First Matabele War.

"It is unlikely that anyone will ever read this. In fact, if you are perusing these pages, and you’re not one of the Kin (“vampires” to the uninitiated), it is almost certain that there’s either been some sort of terrible mistake or that I (Miss Paulette Monot) have decided to take a mortal lover. The latter is perhaps more likely. Lucky you."

REVIEW: ROYAL BLOOD BY BRUCE WOODS

Bruce Woods' Royal Blood was a pleasant surprise for me. This novel is a fascinating, enjoyable and thoughtful combination of romance, colonialism, steampunk, adventure and vampire lore with a surprisingly deep and intriguing glimpse at African cultures.

When an author succeeds in combining fantasy fiction and historical elements, the result is often entertaining and enjoyable. Such is the case in this novel, because it's wonderful escapism from start to finish. I was taken by the freshness of the story and I enjoyed the steady pacing. I found the author's way of combining fantasy, horror and adventure elements satisfying.

Royal Blood begins with Paulette Monot attending a lecture given by Mr. Sherlock Holmes. After the lecture Paulette is invited to a soirée at Mr. Holmes' Baker Street quarters. When she goes to the soirée, she meets the famous actress Ellen Terry (who is the vampire Mistress of the City) and Mr. Cecil Rhodes. She learns that Mr. Holmes is aware of the kin and there are no secrets among those who have now gathered at the house. She is told about the kin possible existing in Africa and how they could be useful against Lobengula (Chief of the Matabele) and his raiding parties. Paulette is asked to travel to Matabe-land and attempt to make contact with the African kin. She accepts the task and travels to Africa...

The characterisation is successful and enjoyable, because the author paints a vivid picture of the protagonist. Paulette Monot is an American lady, who is one of the Kin, a vampire. She's an undead being and intelligent adventuress who considers herself to be a modern female with liberal opinions about sex and a woman's place in the society.

Paulette is a well-created character. I enjoyed reading about her and her view of the world. There's something deeply fascinating and thoughtful about her appearance, behaviour and opinions, because she has to consider many things and she behaves in an intelligent way.

The author uses The First Matabele War, which was fought between 1893 and 1894 in modern day Zimbabwe, as a backdrop for his story. He also uses real historical and famous fictional characters to his advantage, because he brings the characters alive during the story by letting his readers see what happens between Paulette and them. These scenes fascinated me, because the secondary characters are interesting and they bring diversity to the story.

The author has envisioned an atmospheric and adventure-filled view of Africa and its people. His descriptions of the various places and the dangers that the characters meet during their adventures are genuinely fascinating. It was fun to read about what happened in Africa and how the wild African nature was brought to life in an immersive way.

The meetings with the African kin are handled well. There's something deeply intense about the author's way of writing about the meetings and what happens between both parties that impressed me. I especially enjoyed reading about how the vampires behaved and how they reacted to Paulette and her request.

The historical events are well-researched, which is nice. I was pleased to notice how much effort the author has put into checking the facts. There are, of course, a couple of things which may stand out as strange to those who are familiar with historical details, but one has to remember that certain degree of freedom must be allowed for speculative fiction authors in order to maintain the proper flow of the story.

Because colonialism is not often seen in speculative fiction, I was intrigued about what the author wrote about this matter. His look at the colonialism feels realistic, vivid and historically accurate, because he fluently writes about what the world was like in the 19th century when European imperialism brought much of Africa under colonial rule.

Storytelling-wise this novel is among the most entertaining novels I've read during the recent months. I was positively surprised by the author's writing skills and scope of imagination. I like the author's effortless and playful yet deep way of writing about various elements ranging from vampires to colonial matters, because the story flows in a natural way without hindrances.

This novel has erotic and sensual sex scenes. Some of the scenes are surprisingly explicit, because the author doesn't shy away from sexual material. These scenes fit the story perfectly, because vampires have always been associated with eroticism and sex due to their lust for blood and their intimate feeding habits.

Because Sherlock Holmes is one of the characters in this novel, I think that this novel will be of special interest to those who enjoy Sherlock Holmes stories. The author's vision of him and his appearance is compelling.

Bruce Woods' Royal Blood is an enjoyable fantasy novel that can be recommended to readers who love fantasy adventures and vampire novels. This novel is entertaining and immersive, not to mention a fun read for everybody who enjoys stories with a gentle dash of thoughtfulness and a fair amount of creativity and originality (if you want to read good entertainment, you can't go wrong by reading this novel).

My final words are:

Bruce Woods' Royal Blood is captivating escapism for fantasy and horror readers who love vampire stories!

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